For microfluidics, tiny sample volumes move through microchannels etched into a glass chip.
Some may argue that the September 1999 release of the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer was premature--the technology clearly belongs in the new millennium. With this instrument, Agilent Technologies of Palo Alto, Calif., a Hewlett-Packard subsidiary, in collaboration with Caliper Technologies Corp., of Mountain View, Calif., has achieved the first commercial realization of lab-on-a-chip technology. The Agilent 2100 performs integrated DNA and RNA analysis on disposable glass chips.

Lab-on-a-chip technologies (not to be confused with array technologies, which are often called DNA chips) have received considerable research attention in recent years. Academic labs, smaller companies (Aclara and CuraGen), and biotech powerhouses (PE Biosystems and SmithKline Beecham) have joined the fray. Much of the excitement stems from pioneering work by Michael Ramsey and coworkers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Using the computer industry as a guide for...

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